It's no secret I like the PenBBS 350 aluminum pen, especially since I swapped a #6 M nib for the standard PenBBS one. It's a great writer and very comfortable in the hand.
I can safely say, however, I like the PenBBS 380 even more. And it comes with a sweet M nib. No nib swapping required.
Where I called the PenBBS 350 a full-sized pocket pen, the 380 comes off as nothing less than a luxury writing instrument. It has the size, heft and design I associate with expensive Italian pens I don't own and probably never will.
The ten facets both spiral and taper toward the end. The clip is planted squarely at the peak of two at the top but rests in the middle of one facet at it's base. Nice. When closed, the cap and body line up just as they should.
Hats off to PenBBS for designing and executing a heck of a pen.
Capped, the pen is 146mm, so just a hair shorter than the PenBBS 355 Bulkfiller. Uncapped, it's 128mm, again just a little smaller than the PenBBS 355. At 14.5mm at its widest point, it's bigger around than the 355. In that respect, it reminds me most of another favorite metal pen, the Namisu Nova.
The PenBBS 380 uses the same quality converter as the PenBBS 350 (and 308). It works very well.
To the touch the matte aluminum finish is the right combination of tactile and smooth and the bead blasted finish of the clip (which I assume is also aluminum) magically transforms it it from coffinesque to sword-like. The clip fits the design of the pen. The section, body and cap all share the same finish.
The cap comes off in just under 3 turns, which is more than some may like. The threads are relatively fine, and like the PenBBS 350 there is a plastic insert in the cap to eliminate any metal-on-metal scratchiness. So far, I haven't had any issues with the thread insert in my 350 so hopefully there will be none here either.
There is a ledge in the cap to seal the nib which may be machined or could be a plastic insert, I can't tell. The finial and clip are held in place in the cap by a very sturdy looking Philips-head screw that I don't plan to mess with.
The cap and body fit flush so there is a significant step down from the body to the section. The edges are soft enough to not feel sharp when writing. The cap does post relatively deeply and securely enough, but it makes the pen larger than I like so I'm not tempted to write with it that way.
The 380 has been released in black and silver finishes with either with either a standard (bent) PenBBS F nib or a rounded M nib.The F nib models come with a two-tone nib and a gold colored clip. The M nibs are silver, as is the clip. My guess is that the F-nib models (with gold clips) target the local China market while the M nib versions are geared more for Western consumers.
The M nib is the same slightly pedestrian etched model found in the PenBBS 355 - to me the least interesting part of the design. Hopefully PenBBS will move to the stamped style they use for their bent nibs for their rounded nibs.
The pen also comes with a rollerball nib which adds versatility. I keep a rollerball on one end of my PenBBS 469 but that's as many as I need for now.
The PenBBS 380 is a great writer. It's just the right size and weight. The slightly larger barrel behind the section makes the pen feel substantial while the taper at the end gives it an agile feeling I really enjoy.
This is my second pen with a PenBBS "round" M nib. My first was the PenBBS 355. If anything, it's smoother and wetter than the 355, but that may be the Monteverde Horizon Blue ink I chose. (Shoutout to OCArt for planting the seed for this ink in this recent FPN thread about favorite new inks of 2018!)
At just under US$30 plus shipping on Taobao, the PenBBS 380 is one of the more expensive PenBBS pens I've bought. But it feels like more. As soon as I picked it up I was struck by the feeling that with a different pedigree, it could be a very expensive pen. Its both simple and stylish, modern and in line with the great pen traditions.
It would make an impressive introduction for someone new to fountain pens. And I think a great many pen enthusiasts will be knocked back by how cool this pen is. If your PenBBS experience to date has been largely acrylic, here's a chance to expand your mind.
A helpful Reddit commenter pointed out the PenBBS 380 bears more than a passing resemblance to the Nakaya Decapod Twist. Indeed!
Not Italian, but I guess if you're going to make a study of an outstanding design, might as well aim high. Next time I'm in a Nakaya store, I'll going to handle this pen. But US$850?
More often that not, my desk is my pocket. But everyday desk items doesn't have the same ring.